In front of a sold-out crowd in Tucson and a nationally televised ESPN audience, Washington displayed some resilience and moved into first place in the Pac-12.
TUCSON, Ariz. — Some day Tony Wroten Jr. will tell his children a story about Washington’s 69-67 win at Arizona.
He might begin with his three-pointer near the midcourt stripe that just beat the shot-clock buzzer early in the second half.
It was the type of desperation heave that signaled the Huskies would reverse their terrible fortune at McKale Center, where they’d won just six times in 33 attempts and had lost five straight.
Wroten will tell them about the sellout crowd of 14,604 that covered the arena in a whiteout and screamed so loud he couldn’t hear himself think or breathe.
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He’ll get to the part about how the Huskies took control in the second half and led by as many as 11 points (60-49) with fewer than six minutes remaining, only to watch the Wildcats erase the lead in the final seconds.
And finally, he’ll finish the tale with the block. His block. A game-saving rejection at the rim that capped a thrilling game played in front of a nationally televised ESPN audience.
“I’ve never won the game with a game-winning block,” Wroten said. “Most of my game-winners are offensive. This is definitely something I’ll remember forever.”
The Huskies won’t soon forget this weekend in which they completed their fifth desert sweep in school history and gained sole possession of first place in the Pac-12.
“Other than having a big home win, there’s nothing like this,” Wroten said. “It’s definitely going to be something I can tell my kids one day.”
Once again, Washington and Arizona produced a fabulous finish that rivaled their past two meetings, also decided on the final play.
In their last meeting, Isaiah Thomas drained a long jumper at the buzzer to lift Washington to a 77-75 overtime victory in the Pac-10 tournament title game.
In the previous game, conference MVP Derrick Williams blocked a potential game-tying shot in the final seconds from Darnell Gant to give Arizona an 87-86 victory.
Thomas and Williams departed early for the NBA. So on Saturday the stars included Wroten, who scored 17 points, Terrence Ross (16), C.J. Wilcox (15) and Arizona’s Solomon Hill, who finished with a career-high 28 points.
“There’s something about when we play each other,” Wilcox said. “We know the past couple of years how the games have gone and knew it was going to come down to the last couple of minutes.”
The Huskies seemingly took control of the game when Ross drained a jumper with 5:43 left that put them ahead 60-49.
However, the Wildcats relentlessly attacked the rim on every possession. They either scored a layup, drew a foul or both.
Arizona was also benefited by Wilcox and Ross, who missed the front end of one-and-one free-throw situations in the final three minutes.
The Wildcats continued to chip away at Washington’s lead, and with 6.9 seconds left, Hill tied the game with a three-pointer as the building exploded.
“I was just thinking get the ball, run to the ball and get down court as quickly as possible,” Wilcox said. “I was definitely going to try and get a shot off.”
He attempted to dart between defenders and was fouled by Josiah Turner.
Wilcox, a 90 percent free-throw shooter, had missed his previous foul shot. However, he drained both these free throws with 5.3 seconds left.
It was just enough time for Turner to race down court and get to the rim.
Wroten started on him, but handed the Arizona freshman to Wilcox.
“I was just thinking, ‘Man, we can’t go into overtime because they got the momentum,’ ” Wroten said. “I was thinking, ‘What can I do to help my team win?’ He didn’t see me coming, and I was fortunate.”
Wroten darted to the basket from the top of the key and caught a piece of Turner’s layup attempt. The ball spun high in the air and the clock expired just before Nick Johnson flushed a putback.
The Wildcats prematurely jumped with joy, but officials waved off the basket and the Huskies danced at midcourt.
“When Tony blocked it, I was like, good, we got them back,” Gant said. “I was just so happy.”
At the midpoint of the Pac-12 season, Washington is 14-7 and alone in first place at 7-2. California (16-5, 6-2) and Oregon (15-5, 6-2) play Sunday and can gain a share of the lead.
Arizona fell to 14-8 and 5-4.
“Here we come,” Wroten said. “We’re a good basketball team. When we play like we’re capable of, we can be a very dangerous team.”
• Arizona guard-forward Kevin Parrom suffered a broken right foot during the first half and is lost for the season.
Percy Allen: 206-464-2278 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Percentages: FG .444, FT .438. Three-point goals: 6-14, .429 (Ross 2-4, Wroten 2-4, Simmons 1-1, Wilcox 1-3, Gant 0-1, Gaddy 0-1). Team rebounds: 3. Blocked shots: 3 (Ross 3). Turnovers: 14 (Wroten 5, Ross 3, Wilcox 2, N’Diaye 2, Gaddy). Steals: 5 (Ross 3, Wroten, Simmons). Technical fouls: None.
Percentages: FG .420, FT .724. Three-point goals: 4-13, .308 (Hill 2-2, Fogg 2-4, Parrom 0-1, Johnson 0-1, Mayes 0-1, Lavender 0-1, Perry 0-3). Team rebounds: 1. Blocked shots: 4 (Fogg, Turner, Johnson, Chol). Turnovers: 15 (Fogg 5, Perry 2, Johnson 2, Turner 2, Chol 2, Mayes, Hill). Steals: 6 (Lavender, Fogg, Turner, Chol, Johnson, Mayes). Technical fouls: None.
Attendance: 14,604. Officials: Kevin Brill, Tony Padilla, Michael Irving.